Welcome to another installment of “Let’s Read Hell’s Rebels!” You can find links to the whole series in its project page. This time we’ll go through Part 3 of its first adventure. It’s titled “Redactions and Revelations”.
As I probably mentioned in a previous post, Rexus’ parents were members of the Sacred Order of Archivists, a secret society of Irori1 worshippers dedicated to discovering and preserving the true history of Kintargo and Cheliax. The Chelish government dislikes them intensely, since they’re all about redacting that truth and replacing it with their own propaganda2. That’s why they burned the Victocora estate down with most of the family inside.
Rexus, however, believes his parents might still be alive and hiding in the Order’s secret headquarters. His conviction that this must be the case grows as he works on the Silver Ravens document cache the PCs retrieve in part 1. Some time after that work is complete, he approaches the Ravens and proposes they look for his parents.
He reveals the hideout’s location, under an abandoned museum of curiosities named Hocum’s Fantasmagorium. He’s never been there, but one of the things in the box his parents left for him was a mytrhil key that opens the secret door to the compound. At the very least, the place should contain some of his mother’s personal effects. Laria also encourages the PCs to go there, since if the Archivists survive they’d be the perfect allies.
Unlike the more freewheeling part 2, this one consists of a single large dungeon delve, but we still have some flexibility in deciding when it starts. Rexus will only approach the PCs for this after he finishes the translation, but you can decide exactly when that happens. Starting it while multiple other missions from Part 2 are still ongoing is perfect to give your players a sense of “so many things to do, so little time”, but if you think they’re already feeling overwhelmed it might be better to wait until the other stuff is done. The book recommends waiting since it thinks the PCs should be level 3 to have a chance here… but if you’re running this using GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, there’s no need for that.
One thing the PCs will quickly discover when they begin casing this joint is that the Asmodeans got here first. The Barzilai himself visited this place years ago disguised as a traveling scholar, on his quest to learn about the dark ritual that would make him immortal. Once he took power in Kintargo, he turned over the hideout’s location to the Church of Asmodeus, and they sent a team of ninja librarians to take it out and Redact All The Things. Some of them are still here, hard at work, and Thrune sometimes sends his henchwoman Nox to keep an eye on them.
Some judicious information gathering by the PCs prior entering the site can reveal the presence of the Asmodeans, otherwise they’re in for a surprise. The museum’s doors are all sturdy with good locks, but the mytrhil key opens all of them.
Searching the Box Office (E2) will net the PCs some loose change and a ring of swimming3. The Hall of the Cryptids (E3) is full of fake or mislabeled skeletons, some of which have been animated by the Asmodeans to act as guardians. The Hall of the Seas (E4) has a couple of spontaneously generated undead mermaid-things who rise from their aquarium at night.
The Hall of Insects (E5) is now home to a clutch of giant spiders who were accidentally broken out of stasis by a greedy Asmodean who mistook the souvenir badge amid the eggs as a big treasure, which makes the stuff on his corpse the actual treasure at this location.
That’s it for the west wing of the building. The east wing has a wax gallery in room E7 that might give the PCs a scare if they think he statues will animate (they won’t, but one of their eyes is a gem). Room E8 has a bunch of charred zombie guards who will attack anyone not wearing Asmodean colors. These are the corpses of the people who were inside the Victocora estate, including Rexus’ parents, who still wear their wedding rings. Bringing the rings back to Rexus will give him some closure and a bonus XP reward.
Rooms E9 and E10 are the gift shop and the administrative office. They currently house a team of ninja librarians (AKA Asmodean Redactors with levels in Monk) and their evil cleric boss, hard at work reviewing museum documents for inconvenient truths. They’ll probably move to investigate any commotion in the museum level. The redactors should be built on 125 points with Martial Artist skills and abilities, and the cleric is a full 250-point Evil Cleric with a spell selection that allows invisibility and paralysis.
Room E6, right in the middle and back of the building, is a small exibit on the dead god Aroden. His statue hides the secret passage to the hideout below. PCs can figure out the combination to open it if they pay attention. They can also brute-force the lock through skill checks or actual brute force.
The Many-Steps Monastery
This is the hideout proper. It’s occupied by the bulk of the redactor task force and their assorted bodyguards and defenses, including Nox, the regenerating henchwoman they met in passing during Part 1. It’s deep enough underground that the enemies here can’t hear fights happening topside. The name is a joke about the amount of stairs in the place, made by its former Iroran occupants. Unlike the museum, the layout of this lower level is mostly linear.
The stairs from area E6 above lead into The Sacred Archive (F1), a cavernous library that used to be filled with historical records and rare tomes (made rarer by Chelish redacting). The place is now almost bare, with the few remaining tomes waiting to be examined by the redactors. It’s guarded by a type of outsider called a Scrivenite, which is basically a living book that can take a humanoid form made out of fluttering pages and long bookmark ribbons. This one has been bound to aid the redactors, is quite resentful of the fact, and will gladly answer questions about the other defenses and enemies down here as long as the PCs don’t try to advance further into the complex. They will eventually have to, which will cause the spirit to warn the other redactors telepathically. If the PCs can somehow prevent it from doing so, they will have the element of surprise.
Areas F2 and F3 were the living quarters for the Archivists, now taken over by the redactors. If the PCs manage to get here without raising an alarm, there’s a chance they can catch Nox sleeping.
Area F4 is the Artifact Recovery room. The Archivists were also in the business of locking dangerous cursed artifacts away, it seems. Most of the stuff here has been carted off to Barzilai’s opera house base, but something called a cubic gate was left behind. I suspect this is one of those Hellraiser puzzle boxes, given the mess it made when the redactors activated it by mistake. Four of them are in here trying to figure the thing out. They’ll hide in the room and watch the PCs fiddle with it for a while before attacking. See? Ninja librarians.
Area F5 is a mostly uninteresting lecture hall, currently used as a kennel for Nox’s pet hell hound. If the PCs get this far without raising an alarm, the creature will be here.
Next is the Common Room (F6), which is where most of the redacting work currently happens. There’s five Redactors in here plus a half-ogre bodyguard. Pathfinder half-ogres are horribly deformed and mentally handicapped wretches, in keeping with the game’s theme of “ogres as inbred cannibal hillbillies”. This one’s mind has been further muddled by years of Asmodean mental control. It should be built with the Brute and Half-Ogre templates, with particularly low IQ. Smart PCs can easily divide-and-conquer this lot, since the half-ogre won’t attack unless the PCs attack it directly or try to move past it to the next area.
The final area is the Meditation Garden (F7), a large chamber with an underground river running through it and some impressive landscaping. This is where Nox and her pet hellhound can usually be found, so you might as well call this place the “Boss Fight” room.
Nox is technically human, but she’s sold her soul to a devil in exchange for power. She’s a level 5 fighter specializing in polearms, who can also regenerate, teleport and summon a lemure. In GURPS, she should be built with the Knight template and wield a dueling glaive, and should have Unholy powers matching her supernatural abilities from D&D. Overcoming her regeneration should require Holy attacks, and the book also suggests that drowning her in the underground river would kill her for good. If Nox dies, she definitely won’t be coming back - her contract ensures her soul goes straight to hell.
Would a cleric’s spells automatically count as Holy Attacks? That’s an interesting question. The original Pathfinder weakness is “good spells or good weapons”, so maybe you have to use a Holy Might power from a Good deity. The general guideline is that she should have the same vulnerabilities as a real demon in your campaign.
After the PCs deal with Nox, they can loot the room of the books she’s been reading to pass the time. These were created by the scrivenite we described above, and contain a rendering of the memories and knowledge of several of the deceased Archivists… including Rexus’ parents. Through these, it’s possible to procure their aid, after a fashion.
Adventure Conclusion And Commentary
The Fantasmagorium looks like a pretty standard dungeon delve if you play it as written: enter room, kill enemies, loot, rinse, repeat. While it’s true that the people in one level can’t hear what goes on in the other, there’s no reason why all those ninja librarians and their assorted hencthings wouldn’t investigate fights happening on the same level. So you can run this dungeon as a brutal raid where most enemies in the level converge on your party as soon as the alarm is raised. This would be murder on a level 3 Pathfinder party, of course, but might be just the thing to make it really challenging to a party of Dungeon Fantasy delvers. Conversely, if the party takes pains to be stealthy and remain undetected, this could be a tense infiltration mission where success is rewarded with plenty of opportunity to shank surprised villains.
Clearing out the museum and hideout officially concludes the adventure. If you haven’t played through all the events of Part 2, the book advises doing so before moving on, and generally giving the PCs some room to breathe. By the end of Adventure 1 they should be well on track to becoming the most powerful opposition to Barzilai’s government.